The wage gap myth ignores differences in occupations. Far more women work in education. Low-paying majors such as social work and art are more than three-fourths female. Men more often pursue careers in engineering and technology—in spite of millions of dollars spent on programs designed to nudge more young women into the sciences.
Men also tend to work more hours than women. Because women, especially mothers, often have different priorities, they tend to choose workplaces that offer flexibility and a less demanding schedule. Many women also take time off from their careers to raise children and end up with fewer years of experience. That’s why the wage gap is much larger for married women.
When you account for all these factors, the wage gap almost disappears. Even the American Association of University Women admits that these factors lower the 23-cent gap to 6 cents. And those 6 cents aren’t necessarily because of discrimination. Some of the remaining gap may be because many women may not negotiate as well as men. The AAUW also uses broad categories when defining careers—a male lawyer and a female librarian both fall under the label “other white collar.”
American women have more opportunities than anyone in history, and many are freely choosing to work fewer hours or pursue less profitable careers. The supposed 77-cent wage gap may exist because it’s what women want. It should also be something society wants. A world that eliminates the wage gap would be a world that eliminates motherhood.
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